An oldie, but goodie…

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As I was skimming journals for a lit search on another project, I came across this interesting article:

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This article appeared in BMJ in 2003 and it a little dated (a few paragraphs talk about the use of overhead projectors and 35mm slides) but still had some great pearls to pull out if it.

“The nature and qualities of the teaching materials that you use can have a substantial effect on the educational experience of your students.” 

Very true. This is the whole idea behind presentation design and now has research to support this idea (see articles by Dr. Issa).

“Highlighted information helps to emphasize important issues or pivotal points in a developing argument.”

Also very true. One of the most common mistakes I see in presentations is a lack of focus on key points. The presentations turn into “slideuments” that are just large amounts of text in slide format.

The other side of this point is to highlight too much…

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“It is important that both the type of educational event and the teaching materials that supplement it are targeted at what your students need to learn. Targeting, therefore, requires an awareness of what knowledge and skills your students already have.”

Perhaps the most important sentences in this article because they hit so many important points. First, this idea that we have to tailor our teaching to our learners. This is a critical first step in designing educational activities. As much as I love presentation design, there are times when it isn’t even the best way to teach, and we have to consider this first before reflexively creating a powerpoint anytime we are asked to teach anything. This also implies that the same topic may be delivered differently based on the learners and educational goals. Second, teaching materials supplement educational activities. They should never be the central focus. Third, the idea of finding out what your students know related to the educational theme of Organizing and Anchoring. Activating prior knowledge and using the zone of proximal development aids in learning.

“…remember, [technology] is just another educational tool.”

Always important to remember, especially given the explosion of technology in the last few years.

Overall, this article was a nice, quick read that hid some great pearls that are still true for presentation design, but also gave some historic perspective on presentation tools and design ideas at the time.

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HA! Numbering slides…. classic!


Farrow R. “Creating Teaching Materials.” BMJ. 2003;326:921-3

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